A/N: I know you are all waiting for Book of the Dead and In Darkness. I was actually working on Book last night when this decided it wanted to be written. I will have Book up very, very soon! But, here is a little odd tale that wouldn't let me alone. It's different. Title is from the movie. Quoted lyrics are from Dio. Rated for language and some disturbing imagery. Not death fic.
It was one thing he prided himself in, a big thing, something that had saved his life more than once. And not just saved him, saved the people he cared about.
Yep, Dean Winchester was proud of the fact that he was very rarely caught by surprise.
At least not by the big stuff. Oh sure, that outfit the waitress four towns back had been wearing? Sure. That time his brother had ended up filling in for the ingénue in the school play? Well, sure. And that time when they'd actually managed to stay in a four star hotel? Oh, well, sure. But other than that, pretty much not surprised by anything.
Which is why, when the world ended, it took a minute to register.
He was picking up a pizza when it happened. Okay, it was a giant pizza with everything except anchovies, the pop was free and he'd even managed to charm an entire sheet of brownies from the cashier. He fished money out of his pocket, intent on the mouthwatering smells emanating from the boxes on the counter. Dean counted through the bills and looked up at the waitress with a smile.
Just melted. Right there in front of him. With a little squeak, but nothing else. A tiny squeak of surprise and then a puddle on the floor. Dean blinked, then peered over the counter to confirm what he'd seen. Shaking his head, he turned around to see if anyone noticed the waitress's somewhat surprising demise.
Everyone else had melted, too.
Well, everyone in the booths. There was a man—or what Dean assumed had been a man—that was a pillar of fire by the bathroom doors. As his eyes tracked away from the blaze, Dean noticed a splatter of blood and flesh against the large picture window overlooking the street.
Finally, he'd been caught by surprise.
He picked up the pizza, brownies and pop. One last glance around the restaurant and he left, walking out into the evening sun and a town filled with the stench of burning flesh. Someone had melted on his car. Dean walked around to the other side of the Impala, opened the door carefully put the food in the back and dropped down on the seat, sliding across until he was behind the wheel. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a tall man explode, pieces of the guy blasting so far it left a mess on the windshield.
That's when his brain caught up with him.
His first thought, he was sure it would be his last as well, was…
He'd left his brother across town, in the small library by the hotel. All the way across town. All the way across a town full of melting, exploding and burning people. Dean pulled out his phone. No signal. He put the keys in the ignition and slammed the car into gear. He drove through the business district, avoiding the few people left, the few people running in the streets, trying to escape the end, but not managing. They blew apart, dissolved and burst into flame as he passed them.
That's when he noticed the rain.
Bits of humanity, falling from the sky.
Some of it was pink, some other colors, but mostly thick, red drops of blood. The Impala's windshield wipers were having a hard time keeping up with it. Smears of crimson covered the window.
Dean gunned the engine, pushing the car as hard as he dared on the flesh-slicked streets. The Impala was fishtailing, and he berated himself for not getting new tires a month ago. Sam had told him he'd regret it. He knew his brother was only referring to the sale, but the words came back to haunt him.
Had he melted? Exploded? Burned?
As Dean drove he could see his brother's face on every burning stranger he passed, he could see the remnants of Sam's shirt, the battered blue t-shirt, in every pile of former person. He knew he needed to concentrate, he knew it was the only way to make it, but grief was already making an ache in his chest. Tears were burning their way across his cheeks.
The road was blocked.
A bus and semi had collided. It might be hard to drive once you melt or blow apart. He couldn't see any evidence they had burned. He brought the car to a screeching halt. Dean was close now, to where he'd left his brother. Rather than trying to drive around the wreck and hoping there weren't others blocking the road, he decided to get out and walk
Well, run, actually.
Dean opened the door and got out. From somewhere there was an odd background noise. He walked to the back of the car and opened the trunk, listening to the sound, wondering what it was. His mind was still not quite registering what was going on. He reached in and grabbed the shotgun, shoved the .45 in the hidden carry pocket in his jeans, put the bowie knife in his jacket and picked up the machete. Wait. He put the machete down and grabbed the bag of emergency magic supplies, the small first-aid kit, then picked the machete up again.
The streets were now empty, only the small remains of the population staining the road, sidewalk and buildings. As he ran, he listened to the sounds. They were finally making sense in his befuddled brain. Some were near, some more distant, but they were beginning to coalesce into something with meaning. The close sounds were screams. The survivors finding they weren't, in fact, survivors. Some in the distance were explosions. Big explosions. There was something else, though. Something that he never expected to hear in this situation.
A deep, booming laugh, happy with an edge of madness. It rolled over the landscape, echoed through the canyons of the town's buildings like distant thunder. It vibrated through the pavement, it rumbled in Dean's chest. What the fuck? It was the second surprise in what was turning out to be a surprising day. He took a deep breath and focused away from that disturbing sound, focusing on the one thing that kept him running over the bloody street, that kept him moving when all he wanted to do was stop.
He could see the spire of the former-church-turned-library about five blocks away. Dean sped up, a stitch made itself known in his side, twisting and aching and threatening to drive him to his knees. He ground his teeth together and raced on. Something slammed into him, pain lanced through his body. Dean dragged himself off the ground and looked into the terrified black eyes of a demon. They stared at each other for a moment, then the demon, like everyone else, melted.
The fucking demon melted.
For the count of three Dean looked at the demon puddle, then once again his brain caught up with him. He took a deep breath, pressed a hand to the wound in his side and ran, feeling the warmth of his own blood running over his fingers, running down his belly as he ran. It didn't matter. He had to go on, he had to find his brother. Once he knew what had happened he could stop. Of course, if Sam were gone, it would be more than stopping. It would be the end. If he didn't melt or burn or explode, Dean would just end it.
The world was ending, so why the hell not?
One block left to go. The screams had stopped. He was alone in a world full of the smell of charring flesh, burned feathers, the odd smell an open body had and something else. Dean wondered if that particular smell belonged to creatures who were also dying, like the demon, removed from the earth they thought they ruled.
The thought propelled him down the street, up the stairs and into the library. Dean looked wildly around the large open room. It was empty except for bits and pieces. He shouted his brother's name. The panic that had been simmering was now boiling over, threatening to rob him of his sanity. He continued calling for Sam, racing through the building, kicking open locked doors.
He was alone.
Dean ran out of the building, stopping briefly at the top of the stairs to get his bearings. In an odd counterpoint to the booming laugh still echoing over the landscape, Dean could hear a bird's song, the pure notes dropping into his senses like cool rain. I need to focus. Of course, focusing was hard when the world was ending. Had ended. He thought he saw movement to his left, several crows had settled down onto something that had once been human.
Dean looked away.
Shaking himself, he raced down the stairs and to the small motel at the end of the block. The neon "vacancy" sign was reflecting in a dark puddle in front of the office. Dean ran to their room and kicked open the door—he'd left the key in the Impala. It was empty. No. Taking a deep breath, he took a moment to look around the room, there was no pile of former-Sam, no burn marks, no Sam-splatters on the wall. The wave of relief nearly killed him, then he realized…
Dean dropped to his knees then, the grief, the despair catching him the same way surprise had earlier. The wound in his side throbbed in time with the sobs tearing out of him. He leaned forward, his head resting on the floor as he wept, one arm wrapped around his stomach, the other pounding against the hard floor. He knew he was hurting himself, but somehow it didn't matter. Nothing did.
He'd sworn to protect his brother. He'd raised his brother with all the love he had to give, all the care, everything he had. Everything. Dean had watched over him, tended wounds, cared for him when he was ill. They had laughed and fought and laughed. Even when Sam had left, even during those long years of silence, it had still been almost okay. He'd traded his life, his soul, for Sam.
Sam was gone.
The sobs slowly abated, leaving him spent, his abused hand aching like the wound in his side. Dean rolled over, lying on the floor, looking at the wall. The laughter was dying, the sounds of the world slowly coming back. Well, most of the sounds. Birds, crickets, a dog was barking. There were still occasional screams from somewhere a long, long way away. Dean wondered if they were human—or something else. What else had died? Was this the final battle? Good and evil waging war and humanity caught in the middle?
Then it came to him.
He knew that laugh. He recognized it from years before when Sam had made a deal for Dean's life. He was familiar with that booming tone, that rumbling bass of amusement at the expense of humanity. Dean had seen the possessor of that laugh for only an instant, Sam had seen more. He knew that too. It was the fourth surprise of the day. He knew. He understood and he realized that good and bad didn't matter. They were all gone, or most of them. He knew what—who—had brought this final moment.
He'd seen her as a beautiful woman, dark-winged creatures flitting around her head. Her voice had been gentle, coaxing and full of amusement. Dean had asked her why—why save his life, why deal with Sam, and she had laughed, that booming great laugh, and said "because it amuses me."
And she destroyed the world.
It amused her.
Dean pushed himself up from the floor, spent, wondering what he should do. Without thinking he flipped on the TV. A station from Texas was still broadcasting, one frightened reporter talking about "the disaster" and asking anyone in the area to call a number that was flashing on the screen. Out of curiosity, Dean dialed the number from the room's phone. Apparently, whoever had been manning the phone had melted, or exploded, or burned. He broke the connection and looked back at the TV. A sound from somewhere outside the door began to worm its way into his numbed brain. Someone was yelling—shouting their panic, their fear, their desperation into the empty streets.
He picked up the machete, walked to the door and looked out. Someone was running, racing along the street towards the motel. Dean took a step outside the door, squinting into the setting sun. The wound in his side gave a huge twist, reacting to the sudden stab in his heart. It was suddenly hard to catch his breath, to breathe at all. The large blade clattered to the ground.
The figure stopped for a moment.
Dean took a step, then ran. He caught his brother, Sam's arms wound around him and they stood there, the last of the blood-rain dropping on their heads. Sam's sobs covered the sounds of the now-empty world around them. Dean knew he was sobbing as well. He leaned against his brother—his warm, not melted, exploded or burned brother—and let it all be, for just that moment.
Sam pulled away and ran his eyes over him. Dean did the same. There was blood on his brother's face from a gash near his temple. Sam's clothes were covered in bits, one sleeve was singed. "You're bleeding." Sam's voice was harsh, strained.
"A car exploded."
"A demon stabbed me, then melted."
"I need to check it."
"It's fine, Sam."
Sam pulled him towards their room. He pushed Dean down onto one of the beds and picked up the first-aid kit. After checking the wound, Sam pulled the sutures out of the kit, swabbed the area and began carefully stitching the slash together. Dean leaned back, the pull of the thread, the sharp pinch of the needle somehow comforting, real, in a world suddenly stripped of its reality.
When Sam finished, he patted Dean's chest and went to the bathroom. Dean heard his brother vomit, then the water come on in the sink. Sam reappeared a moment later and sat down on the end of the bed. Dean struggled into a sitting position and leaned against his brother, needing the contact, needing to know Sam was alive.
"The world just ended," Sam said after a long moment of silence.
"Yep, and I was getting a pizza." Dean nudged his brother with his shoulder. "A fucking pizza, Sam. And the world ended."
"I went to get a latte."
"That's why you weren't in the library," Dean said, surprised at the emotion in his voice.
"Yeah. I thought you were gone, Dean."
"I thought you were gone, too."
"Are we all that's left?" Sam asked.
"I don't know. We'll worry about that later." Dean was suddenly very tired.
"Okay." Sam sighed. "Everyone is gone."
"Maybe not everyone."
"I saw something that might have been an angel explode." Sam shook his head. "Something with feathers at least."
"Yeah. Demons, too."
"Everything. The world ended. It just ended."
"What do we do?"
"We go on."
"How, Dean?" They were silent again for a moment. "What did you say about pizza?" Sam said.
"I was getting a pizza. I got brownies and pop, too."
"Where is it?"
"In the car about five blocks from here."
"With everything." Dean stood. "Let's go get it. And the car."
"Yeah." Sam stood as well. "It's a start."
The walked out of the motel, the wind had come up, blowing some of the smell away. Dean wondered if that was something else Chaos had done. She'd ended the world to amuse herself, left them alive and maybe blew the stench away just for fun. He didn't know for sure. He looked over at Sam, his brother sensed his look and turned to him with a half-smile. The car was where he'd left her, still covered in blood and goo and former people. Sam looked at the Impala and up at Dean.
"There's a carwash on the next block over," Sam said as he opened the door.
"Okay, we start there."
"Washing the car?" Sam looked at him. "Then what?"
"We check into the Hilton, break into the bar, eat our pizza and get as drunk as we can."
"We worry about that tomorrow, Sammy."
Dean dropped into the car, Sam in the passenger seat beside him, and drove through the silent, dark streets. After several minutes of silence, Dean heard the clatter of the cassette tapes. Sam grinned at him and shoved the tape into the player. It was one of Sam's favorites for all that it was metal. It was a perfect choice. It began slowly, the music and lyrics building. Dean looked over at his brother and smiled.
The world had ended.
But they were together.
Dean turned up the music and started singing. Sam joined him, their voices loud in the hushed world.
We'll know for the first time
If we're evil or divine
We're the last in line
Yeah we're the last in line
A/N II: I won't say this is the end, not yet. Sam might want to let his POV be known and it is a brave new world, who knows what wonders and horrors it might contain…